Democratic senators introduce bill to block Trump 'public charge' rule

Sens. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group Overnight Energy: Top Interior lawyer accused of lying to Congress confirmed | Senate set to deny funding for BLM move | EPA threatens to cut California highway funds MORE (D-Hawaii) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Tuesday introduced legislation that would block the Trump administration’s new “public charge” rule, which allows the government to deny entry or green cards to immigrants based on their use of public programs like food stamps and Medicaid.

The Protect American Values Act would block the enforcement of the rule by immigration authorities.

“The true intent of the public charge rule is to create a climate of fear among immigrant families, and sadly its working,” Hirono said at a press conference Tuesday.

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Twenty-seven senators already support the bill, Hirono said.

“Neither of us would be here if this rule existed when we were born,” Blumenthal said, telling the story of his father immigrating to America. “The immigrants that this rule seeks to bar from this country are potentially the source of scientists and teachers and doctors.”

Under the new definition of "public charge," participation in federal programs such as food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid will be a negative factor when determining if an immigrant can be granted a green card or visa. 

Previously, only receipt of significant direct cash subsidies from the government qualified applicants as “public charges.”

Critics say the policy could dramatically limit the number of people using social safety net programs by creating a chilling effect that could discourage noncitizens and permanent residents from renewing or applying for benefits for which they are qualified.

The rule has already been challenged by 16 state attorney generals.